Linked by Nicholas Blachford on Wed 11th Aug 2004 07:53 UTC
Editorial Computers are complex systems but it's a mistake to assume they need to be complex to use. However, usability is not as easy as it may first seem. It is a different discipline from software development lacking the strict logic or having a "right way". There are only differing requirements and differing collections of guidelines. Making things easy is difficult.
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Wow, usability discussions!
by usario clave on Wed 11th Aug 2004 16:58 UTC

This is a great step - people in the computing field (outside of Apple and Amiga fans) talking about usability. Back in the day, usability meant having a green screen and a keyboard that works. Now it means something that's easy to use for non-domain experts.

Realistically speaking, there are two user types: domain experts and non-domain experts. Domain experts = people that require high-density information and quick access to commands/features. Non-experts = low density information, easy to find information.

The conflict is pretty obvious, but resolving it isn't. With a domain expert interface, the user can see massive amounts of information, lowering the cognitive load. But that comes with a front-loaded cost: becoming an expert, usually with lots of training. With a novice interface, lower-skilled and trained people can use it, but possibly with less speed/skill/reaction time.

The challenge of UI design is to figure out which users are the primary ones and write to them. Good designers can also provide an interface easy enough for non-domain experts but accepted by domain experts, something that's happened in airplane cockpits over the years.

One great example of a failure of the above would be the BMW iDrive system, which substituted a novice (though cluttered) interface with a domain-expert (and massively simplified) interface. BMW took a cluttererd visual field and reduced it, but in doing so put more cognitive load on the driver.

They could have used touchscreens instead, but didn't (presumably for cost reasons). It'd be pretty interesting to read the iDrive story, as somewhere along the line there was a failure to communicate.